Bradley Family Myths
Myths are powerful in that they define who each of us is -- people try to live their
personal myths and we Bradley's are no different. We Bradley's believe
we are intelligent and respected members of our community and expect
to live long and full lives. The name is actually
O'Brolachain.

According to ancient Irish records Bradley is the English name given descendants of the O'Brolachain Clan after the 15th century Elizabethan wars. It is said the O'Brolachains were a famous Ulster family whose original home was the broad valley near Clogher County, Ireland. In fact O'Brolachain translates as "From the broad valley."

In history the name appears most frequently in Irish annals as noted churchmen and educators. Hugh the Son of Maelbrighde O'Brolachain the Builder was a celebrated professor. His brother was Bishop of Kildare. Donal O'Brolachain was Abbot of the monastery of Derry which Flaibhertach O'Brolachain rebuilt as the Cathedral of Derry in 1164. Many O'Brolachains continued this family tradition until the Elizabethan wars brought decline of the leading Gaelic Clans and their cultural heritage.

In the United States Colonel Bradley was one of General George Washington's trusted leaders. Most Reverend Dennis Mary Bradley (1846-1903) was First Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire.

Grandpa Leonard Bradley came to Kankakee County, Illinois from Woodstock, Canada at 17 years of age. While the origin of his belief in formal education is lost it is obvious he believed. For one thing my Father and his brother and all but one sister completed high school which was unheard of among farm families of the early 1900s.

The myth of Bradley family intelligence probably has origins in the above described experience of 1910. Largely because of my Father's education the home of my childhood always held a bookcase of well-worn books and we lived amid the clutter of magazines and newspapers. The result is an ability to converse about many topics and a well-developed vocabulary -- traits some people correlate with intelligence. In my high school yearbook someone said about me... "His vocabulary far suppresses his elders." That pretty well sums up the myth of latter day intelligence -- at least when it comes to me; It's only a myth.

Long-lived is based on observable fact. Grandma Bradley told of watching the Grand Army of the Republic march down the Dixie Highway during the Civil War. She was 102 years and 7 months old when she passed away. All my grandparents were well into their 80s before departing this planet. There's also very little evidence of senility during old age. My Father was completely current in regard to family and political events until the day he died. He wrote a wonderful autobiography in 1980 at 80 years of age and a magical letter in 1984.

"I am confused. I've been thinking and that in itself is confusing. It all started when a friend said 'heard your house burned down.' Down didn't seem the right word since the walls were still standing. Just the inside gone so the reply was 'No, it burned up.' So what's the difference -- he and I had to agree there didn't seem to be any. So if up and down mean the same how about other directions. Are they that necessary either?

Suppose one was standing on the North Pole -- he would be facing South no matter which way he turned, right? Now suppose he goes 10 feet ahead -- any direction and turns 1/4 turn right. He should be facing West, I hope. OK, now I am there and I want to go straight West so I fix my eyes on an imaginary spot on the horizon, straight ahead and start out. After a while I stop to rest and think. There is the pole way over yonder and I shouldn't be any farther from it than when I started so something is wrong. I go back and try again. This time I stay 10 feet away and run a tight little circle 20 feet in diameter Presto -- I've gone West the easy way -- Horace Greely should have known about that. Could have gone East and not been anywhere different.

So up and down and East and West are a mess. Maybe North and South are honest but I wouldn't bet on it."

Dad's mind was as quick and connected as ever -- at least that's how I interpreted the above. He died the following June.

Then there's the myth of respectability Old land equals respectability -- at least in the minds of farmers. Grandpa Bradley married a Bebee and they were original Kankakee County pioneers. When Grandpa Bradley inherited the Bebee homestead the Bradley's became landed gentry and apparently there was some money to lend.

I've been told that in the early 1920s Grandpa Bradley lent his neighbor to the West, a Mr. Dugie, enough money for Mr. Dugie to save his farm from the tax collectors -- that a few years later Mr. Dugie gave my Uncle Elwin a similar loan in return, and which Mr. Dugie later forgave, allowing Uncle Elwin to keep his farm. But it's apparent not everyone loved the Bradley's.

The Klu Klux Klan burned the crops and corncrib in the early 20s. Apparently Dad knew the men involved - and that the plot was hatched at the local Baptist Church. Dad had a very cynical view of people who made a visible show of religion for the rest of his life. Anyway, when I asked for details just before Dad died he said...

"Some of the people involved are still alive and there's no reason to embarrass anyone. Let it lie."

Dad's secret died with him and that's the way it ought to be. Bottom line a mortgage was taken out to pay for construction of a new corncrib -- the lending bank sold the mortgage to another bank -- then the original bank, wherein all the Bradley assets were banked, suddenly closed without warning. The original bank's closing meant the immediate loss of all cash and savings and eventual loss of the Bradley/Bebee Homestead.

Which was probably for the best. From my observation it always appeared to me that the Bradleys' of my Father's generation had a "noblesse oblige" attitude. Losing all one's worldly goods is one road to humble and I sincerely believe humble is good.

A crisis can also bring one's true essence to the fore. Dad's success, after being forced to begin totally anew in 1939, proved his power. In 1957 Dad regained landowner status which is another story in itself.